Darlington: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Darlington Raceway and discussed his approach to this weekend's race, playing golf at Quail Hollow last week, his mother and much more. TALK ABOUT YOUR APPROACH COMING...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Darlington Raceway and discussed his approach to this weekend's race, playing golf at Quail Hollow last week, his mother and much more.

TALK ABOUT YOUR APPROACH COMING INTO TOMORROW NIGHT'S RACE HERE AT DARLINGTON. "I knew we slipped some in the points but I didn't realize it was that far. The last two weeks we've had great race cars and have had some things not go our way. We've got caught up in some wrecks and stuff, then we had a mechanical problem with the brakes last weekend. It's just part of it and you're gonna have that at different points throughout the year. Truthfully we would love to get a good top-five, top-three under our belt, certainly a win but I think the way we like to operate we want a big cushion between where we are and the cut off for the Chase. So I think our focus is really about collecting points right now and not taking unnecessary risks. Where we were a few weeks ago let us race at Talladega instead of ride and then from Talladega to Richmond we've lost a bunch of points so now we need to protect a little bit more."

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR YOU THE TWO YEARS YOU WON THIS RACE? "The race track then was so much different and I can tell you a lot of things I've done wrong. A lot of times you end up caught up racing people in traffic and you get sucked into things and situations where you make mistakes. This track as soon as you feel like you've got the perfect line and know the grip level and have everything just right something changes and you're in the fence. I've taken myself out of contention plenty of times. The two races that I won I just did everything right. Pit stops are very important here because it's tough to pass. So it really is a team effort here at the end of the day but more from my side the thing I have to focus on the most in running my race regardless if I'm going forward or backwards, making sure that I run my race."

ARE YOU PUZZLED THAT A GUY LIKE TONY STEWART HAS NOT WON AT THIS PLACE? "It must be circumstances because with the old surface he, (Jeff) Burton, (Jeff) Gordon, (Greg) Biffle was on a run there. There's only a few guys that I think of who would run up front and you would have to race for the win list. So that's shocking to me to hear that he hasn't won here. The track is much different now and five years from now it will go back towards the way it was. Today's racing here is much different than what we had in the past so I think it's kind of an open book right now."

WHAT'S THE PROBLEM AT INDIANAPOLIS? "I hear it's been challenging again this year. I thought that at the end of last year they found some stuff that was working well and we were going to be alright. The latest tests I've heard have been challenging. Better than what we had. The track is taking rubber and the tire is laying rubber but we still have a short window of laps. I think if the weather is perfect from what I've hears sounds like we'll be okay. If there's a threat of race and the track is green come race day morning then we could have some issues again. You know the track, even Indy cars go there and struggle until they get enough rubber down. I think that we can certainly work harder on the tires. Cars have changed, last year that all came together for the perfect storm and created a lot of problems but at some point we've got to look at the surface. Not saying we haven't exhausted all avenues on the tires and the cars but that place is very abrasive. It doesn't matter what type of vehicle is on it.

"Also if you look at the F1 cars when they went there they had their issue. The track for whatever reason just creates those issues."

YOU TALKED ABOUT NOT TAKING CHANCES AND TRYING TO GET YOUR POINTS BUILT BACK UP, ARE THERE THINGS YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT SPECIFICALLY THAT YOU GUYS WOULD DO WITH THE CAR OR IS THAT BASICALLY JUST HOW THE RACE IS PLAYED OUT? "It's more for the race. It sometimes will come down to strategy with fuel, two tires or four tires. It would have only been six positions last week and I had a fast race car when we got the brakes fixed and I'm out there running along up front with the leaders and then the leaders get into a wreck and takes us out with them and now I've lost six more positions. It's just really understanding the environment that I'm in and the situations that I'm in and trying to be smart and say alright this looks a little dicey right now, do I really need to be pushing at this point of the race. So things like that. In the end you still have to go out and lay it down and make sure the car drives well and run competitively. If there's some type of second guessing in my mind on track I need to pay attention to it and remove myself from that. And the same with Chad (Knaus), if two tires is risky or trying to stretch it on fuel at the end we just don't need to play that game right now."

I GOT AN EMAIL THIS WEEK ABOUT YOUR SECOND SHOT AT QUAIL HOLLOW THAT IS WAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE THING THAT PEOPLE SAW ALL WEEK, WHAT HAPPENED? "Well I had the nerves on the first hole like I expected to have and played army golf all the way down one. Then on two I shanked one right into the bushes, into this huge holly tree and inside of the bushes the ball was sitting in there where the official was so nice to point it out to me. I climbed inside the bush and just took a shot at it and it hit the bank. There's a swell in front of it and it hit the bank and rolled up onto the green. As I came out of the bushes there was a big gallery of fans and stuff and people were very impressed about it. As I walked toward the green the ball kept rolling and it ended up a few inches from the hole which is really, really impressive. I wish that I could say that I did it on purpose but I'll take it. It was a fun experience. I high-fived a hundred people on the way to the green. Fans were going nuts and had a good time with it."

DID YOU MAKE THE PUT? "I did and they made me put right away and I was still on the high of making the shot and I was shaking still."

CAN YOU DEFINE WHAT DIGGING DEEP MEANS TO YOU? "To me it's really getting what you can out of the car. It's so easy to overdrive these cars. Digging deep to me is just knowing the limitations I have to deal with and putting the best lap that I can together with the circumstances. If you look at F1 guys that come in or open-wheel drivers their threshold is a lot higher so you can probably push yourself more mentally than what you do with these cars. But for us it's really about making sure you're tidy and run a good lap."

HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE KYLE BUSCH THE DRIVER THREE OR FOUR YEARS AGO TO THE DRIVER HE IS NOW? "I'm watching him mature and make smart decisions on the track and still running in an aggressive manner. Where before you could count on him hitting something or someone and it was just a matter of time. Now he's not making those mistakes. I've seen him even in the Nationwide car, he probably has less to lose in the scheme of things have something go wrong and drive his way through traffic and the right side doesn't have a mark on it and the bumper hasn't been used. That's not the Kyle of three years ago. Unfortunately for us he's getting smarter."

ON APPROACHING DOVER AND THE LONG SUMMER STRETCH. "Yeah I think so. It's when the temperatures really pick up. It's a very physical race track and tough on the equipment. When you start the season you go through the first quarter it's hard to see Loudon or Richmond depending how you look at it and you get to Dover and it's closer and you're kind of half way there essentially and you need to buckle down and you've lost x-amount to the leaders or you're leading by x-amount and you know that can swing the other way so you really have to be on top of things and buckle down. Dover is a fun track but the spring race and the fall race looking at them they're very challenging and pivotal points in the year for points I think."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR MOM A LITTLE BIT? "She really has been the glue to keep everything together over the years. She really has taught the importance of being a good person to my brothers and myself and supported this crazy hobby now profession that we have. As long as I kept my grades up my mom was willing to let us travel around the country and race. Through all the things that we did she didn't have a nice home and she didn't have nice clothes or a car but we had motorcycles and we'd go to Oklahoma to race and to Tennessee to race and Las Vegas to race so she made a lot of sacrifices for the family and I greatly appreciate it. She'll be down for the intros so that's going to be fun."

WHEN YOU WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT KYLE'S (BUSCH) PROGRESSION OVER THE LAST THREE YEARS, WITH WHAT YOU'VE SEEN IS THAT A NORMAL PROGRESSION THAT YOU SEE OUT OF A DRIVER OR IS THAT A GREATER PROGRESSION THAT YOU SEE OUT OF DRIVERS? "I think there are certain levels of it that is normal. The impressive thing is that he still has his aggressive driving style without the mistakes. I think in some other cases you've got one or the other and you have to pull back so far you don't have that spark and Kyle certainly is exciting to watch and has that spark still without hitting things. So I think he's above the curve in growth from starting off so young and not necessarily inexperience but not knowing these cars and tracks and trying to grow through all of that. He's probably ahead of the curve."

WITH ALL THE CHALLENGES THIS TRACK PRESENTS WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT A DRIVER WHO CAN WIN HERE? "This place is always changing and now it's changed in a way where the speed is so much higher and the opportunities to pass are a lot less than we've seen in the past. So Darlington lives up to its name where you can never conquer the track, you never know what to expect. If you win here it takes a total package. You have to have a fast car and pit stops. Everything is highlighted here because it's so difficult to pass and now that the speeds are so high car handling is more of a premium and track position and other things. So it's a challenging track and I guess that's why the fans love it so much. You can never put your guard down here."

IF YOU WERE RICK HENDRICK WHAT WOULD YOU DO ABOUT THE NO. 88 TEAM? WHAT SEEMS TO BE MISSING THERE? "Working with those guys, they're working their tails off to get stuff right. Last weekend they were extremely optimistic about their car in the debriefs that we had leading into the race, even race day morning. I think that they're learning, they're running the course. I don't know what I would change. There's a lot of great things that come from Tony (Eury) Jr. and the ideas that he has and Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) is as committed and focused as I've seen him and giving great feedback. Hopefully whatever is needed will spark and off they'll go."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt